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By: Nick Blumberg on 01/04/2013
The county Air Quality department has received more than 300 complaints of residents violating "no-burn" days this winter. But the department has fewer inspectors to help enforce that restriction than in past years.
When pollution is up and air is stagnant, the Maricopa County Air Quality Department issues a "no-burn" restriction.
The department relies largely on residents to report violations. But it’s also budgeted for 40 inspectors who patrol the county. That’s down more than a third from 2010 – when the budget included 70 inspectors, and from last year, with 59 inspectors.
But county Air Quality spokesman Bob Huhn said the department also gets the word out about "no-burn" days through community partnerships – for example, on ADOT’s freeway signs.
“We’d rather just have the folks know about it than send out violations because it’s good for everybody," Huhn said. "Everybody breathes the air, so we’re trying to help the folks who do have health issues. Even healthy people, maybe runners may decide to curtail their running that day.”
Huhn said burn restrictions are most critical during the winter. “The highest levels we see are around this time. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are by far the highest levels. And that’s because of all the increased activity from wood burning and the stagnant air.”
First offenders on a "no-burn" day get a warning, while frequent violators of burn restrictions can face a fine of up to $200.